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NZ to chair FAO meeting for first time in 48 years

NZ to chair FAO meeting for first time in 48 years

Trade in food and other agricultural products would be a key topic at this year's United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation meeting, Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton said today.

Mr Sutton arrived in Rome, Italy, today for the FAO meeting. He is chairing the fortnight-long meeting, the first time New Zealand has chaired the meeting since 1955, when Keith Holyoake was minister of agriculture.

"As a food producer and exporter, New Zealand has an international impact larger than might be expected, given our size. Chairing this FAO meeting will enable New Zealand to be involved in discussions that we might not otherwise have been participating in."

He said he expected the stalling of the WTO Doha Development Round talks to be a key topic of discussion at the FAO meeting.

"A key goal of the FAO is to reduce poverty in developing nations, and it is pretty well accepted that the best way to do this is to enable developing nations to trade in the goods and services that they have a competitive advantage in. Mostly, that is in agriculture and textiles: unfortunately, these two are probably the most protected sectors in international trade.

"Unless we can collectively act and liberalise trade in these two areas in particular, developing nations are going to be limited in what they can achieve for their citizens."

Mr Sutton said the most pernicious problem in international trade in agricultural goods was export subsidies, used mainly by the United States and the European Union.

"I believe that there needs to be significant movement from these two economic superpowers if the WTO's Doha Development Agenda goals are to be achieved."

However, he said, movement was needed not just from developed nations. Developing nations had to contribute too.

"Statistics show that a large amount of developing nations' trade is with other developing nations, and there is significant tariff barriers affecting that trade. Developing nations need to free up trade amongst themselves as well if the full benefits of international trade are to be realized."

While in Italy, Mr Sutton will also speak with a business audience in Milan and will visit Zespri's kiwifruit orchards near Rome.

He returns to New Zealand on December 12.

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